Writing Process Blog Hop!

Hey everyone!

So the ridiculously awesome Clara Kensie and Stacey Kade invited me to join this writing blog hop! You can read their posts right here (Clara and Stacey) because, well…yeah, I’m not kidding about the awesome.

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This is my expression when I see them at a conference.

Okay, it’s question time!

1. What am I working on right now?

I’m writing the second book in a series that has only just gone on submission. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it. So please forgive my vagueness. I can tell you that my heroine Emmy Danvers gets into a boatload of danger that involves contract killers, an elite prep school, and a boy with more than a few secrets of his own. Oh, and I absolutely love writing it! I’ve wanted to write this story for the past four years, so it’s a huge relief to finally put it on the page.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Oh. I’m not quite sure how to answer this.

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I write humorous contemporary YA. If you’re thinking, “That doesn’t answer the question, Marni. A whole lot of other people write that too,” than I obviously need to distract you. Penguins are adorable. They are the fanciest and I love them.

There is also a penguin named Nils Olav who was knighted in Norway. Making him (by far) the cutest knight in all of history. It’s not even a competition.

Now you know what I bring to the table: penguins and non sequiturs. But mostly penguins.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love it. Pure and simple. I could not talk myself into writing 70,000 words (or more!) on a topic unless I was absolutely, positively, and undeniably hooked! I write the book that I most want to read at that particular moment. I think I continue on through the holy-crap-writing-so-freaking-hard times because I genuinely care about my characters and I can’t leave their stories untold without being plagued by guilt.

That’s also why I feel incredibly lucky that Kensington Teen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my Smith High School characters with AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER. It would have been a whole lot harder for me to move on without that closure.

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4. How does my writing process work?

Well, it usually starts out something like this:

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It starts with a question that I find interesting. Like, what would you do if you became an overnight internet sensation? Or what if someone asked you to fake a very public relationship?

Then I write the beginning and I feel great! Everything is new and shiny and sparkly!

Until it’s really not.

That’s when I pull out my journal and start doodling. (Don’t look at the doodles if you can’t handle spoilers!)

Here is what I made for AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER:

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I’ve noticed that often just doodling names or general topics can unlock the next section of plot for me.

Sometimes my doodles involve photos of famous people, like this one for DECKED WITH HOLLY.

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My doodle for my current work in progress looks like this…

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Intentionally blurred because it reveals plot for Book Two. And because it is my Secret Project of Secret.

Creating these doodles has become an integral part of my process, but there really is no magic short-cut to writing a novel. I have to sit down, take a deep breath (and an even bigger sip of coffee), and keep writing until I reach the end. And when I get to the editing stage, I ask my barista for a triple shot. ;)

And yes, I create impossible word count schedules for myself. I bribe myself with the promise of Thai food. Sometimes I take three or four days off and do nothing but listen to audiobooks. If you see me doing book promotion, it’s a fairly safe bet that the words aren’t flowing too smoothly.

The whole process can be maddening at times, but I still wake up every day feeling incredibly grateful that I get to do it!

The blog hop continues with Celeste EastonLydia Kang, and Kim Meyer! So there’s a whole lot more awesomeness to be read!

And on that note…

*slinks back to the writing cave*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Don’t Quote Me On This… (AKA How Authors Get Cover Quotes)

Hey everyone,

Truly, one of the most awkward parts of publishing is getting a quote for your manuscript. It’s kind of like asking your high school teacher to write a college letter of recommendation except a billion times worse.

Because these are either….

A. Your friends.

B. Your writing heros.

C. Authors you stalk on Twitter and therefore are convinced that you could TOTALLY be besties if you ever actually met…

And you’re essentially asking them to craft a compliment exclusively for you.

There are a few different techniques that authors tend to employ.

The humorous approach.

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Feel free to put it in writing. For me. Thanks, homie!

The honest approach.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-22066-1399906332-49Compliment me, dammit!

The who-are-we-kidding-I’m-really-desperate-here approach.

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This doesn’t tend to work with writers. Most of us don’t feel like successful adults. What’s your point?

And the….well, whatever the hell this is approach.

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Hey guys! It’s Mustachio Marni! Don’t you want to say something nice now….?!?

Anyhow, I’m testing out the last approach. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.

I’ll let you guys know if it works!

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Advice Monday: What You SHOULDN’T Ask An Author

Hey everyone,

Author protocol is a scary thing! I say this as someone who has, um…committed more than her share of social faux pas, both online and in person.

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Um…whoops?

That’s why I thought I’d take some of those experiences to compile this list!

Here goes:

1. Respect personal boundaries.

This is a whole lot harder than it might sound.

I definitely wish it always worked like this…

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Even online friendships take time. Tweeting fifteen, “follow me, please!” messages isn’t really the way you want to get someone’s attention. Trust me on this. You want your favorite author to follow you because they want to chat, not because they feel guilty. The best way to make this happen is to have conversations with them, not at them.

2. Accept that personal safety trumps EVERYTHING.

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*Marni quakes with fear*

I’m not going to tell you where I live. I pay for a P.O box. for that very reason. Most of my author friends are parents who take both their personal safety and that of their childrens’ very seriously. Everyone sets their limits differently. I personally have reached the point where I’m just not comfortable Facebook friending my readers. It’s not because I don’t love you all (I do! I totally do!) but if you’d like to interact with me on FB, I sincerely hope you will “like” my author page.

I enjoy being accessible to my fans. That doesn’t mean I forfeit the right to personal space.

3. Don’t ask questions that sound identity theft-y.

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It’s not uncommon for authors to hear from teenagers who have been assigned a list of questions. Now while I think that it’s great that teachers are encouraging their students to engage with the literary world…some of these questions are inappropriate.

You don’t need to know my mother’s maiden name. Details about my first pet, my first job, my high school mascot…

(Teachers: Please revise this questionnaire!)

These questions put authors in a really awkward situation. We don’t want to come across as rude or standoffish, but if we give out that information to the wrong person–even once–our bank accounts could be emptied.

Which wouldn’t be good for anyone.

So here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think somebody could make trouble with the answer, don’t ask the question.

Oh, and please check out the author’s blog/Frequently Asked Questions tab. Usually you can find what you want to know right there!

4. NEVER quote a bad review at an author!

Not even when you want to know what they think about that really nasty one-star review someone left on Goodreads.

Resist. The. Urge.

Why?

Welll….

a) Bad things happen when authors respond to reviews. In fact, some careers have very publicly imploded this way. Even when an author doesn’t publicly get in trouble, they are often privately reprimanded by their agent, editor, friends, colleagues, etc., who say something similar to this…

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Or at least you shouldn’t share those feelings. Go back to discussing stickers and stop-motion animation book trailers!

b)

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My feedback doesn’t matter. At best, I’ll look defensive. At worst, condescending, snide, rude, arrogant, over-entitled…yeah, not good. The solution to this might seem easy: Don’t be a jerk about it, Marni! But it’s always hard to hear mean things about yourself. No matter how well-intentioned the bearer of bad news, that information hurts.

That also leads me to the biggest reason why you should NEVER quote a bad review at an author…

5. Remember that you have NO IDEA how they are doing.

You don’t. Even if their Twitter feed is all happiness and hedgehogs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with crippling self-doubt/depression/anxiety, etc.

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This is very true for writers.

Someone very important to me is bipolar and she can’t openly discuss it because of the stigma attached. She is horribly, gut-wrenchingly afraid that if anyone discovers it, her career will go up in flames. Nobody would suspect that anything was wrong just by scrolling through her Facebook feed. Myself included.

So, I repeat: You can’t draw conclusions about someone’s mental health from their online presence.

That’s why I highly recommend airing on the side of compassion and kindness. And leaving bad reviews where they belong–buried deep in the bowels of Goodreads.

That’s my advice for the week!

Stay awesome, friends!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Advice Monday: Humble-bragging and Jealousy

Hey everyone!

People seem to like it when I give advice. And well…I’ve never exactly suffered from a shortage of opinions. Just ask my (long-suffering) family members.

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Elementary School Marni considers what advice to give…

So feel free to ask questions! About writing. About life. About anything you want to discuss.

Today I thought I’d tackle professional jealousy.

This topic has been on my mind a lot recently. See, this post about writers on social media started making the rounds on my Facebook feed. I read it, laughed, then stared a bit guiltily at the keyboard.

Because I’ve definitely humble-bragged about meeting my favorite authors before!

In fact, I’ve not-so-humble bragged about meeting people!

Case in point:

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Marni plus Laurie Halse Anderson.

Oh and…

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Marni plus Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

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Marni plus Nora Roberts.

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Marni plus Ally Carter.

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Marni plus Jay Asher.

And my personal favorite…

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Marni plus Ellen DeGeneres!

Are you getting the picture? I’ve posted ALL of these online. Why?

Because. I. Totally. Geeked. Out.

And, yes, because it feels really good to look all smart and professional and…fancy online. These pictures were taken during some of the most wonderful moments of my life. But they are snapshots in time. They don’t tell the real story.

The real story is never as glamorous. The real story is that after a night of dancing with authors at the RWA in Atlanta, I spent the next six hours vomiting in a toilet. My friends think it must have been an allergic reaction to my TWO SIPS of Long Island Iced Tea.

I kid you not. Two sips.

Did I share that with the world? Um, no. I didn’t.

I conveniently left that part out.

So should I feel guilty about my not-so-humble bragging? Am one of those authors that people want to punch in the face(book)?!

Here’s what my friend and fellow KTeen author, Brigid Kemmerer, has to say:

I hate articles that seem to imply that we should shut up about our successes because we might make other people feel bad. It’s ridiculous. There’s no need to police social media to protect anyone’s feelings. Yes, non-stop promotion gets tiresomeBut so does non-stop complaining or non-stop anything.

If people are allowing social media to make them feel inferior, then they need to step away from the computer and get back in the real world. What people post on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is such a narrow slice of their world — and it’s only what they WANT you to see. Further, if someone IS offended or overwhelmed by what one person is posting, then they can block that person or hide them from their feed. There are a few people I’ve unfollowed on Twitter because all they tweet are promo feeds for themselves and others. That’s IT. Who wants to read a non-stop stream of that? I like social media for one reason: the social aspect.

That’s when it kind of hit me. It’s not the bragging that bothers most people. I mean, yes, sometimes it can be grating, but that’s not at the heart of this issue. I suspect that the real problem is that the publishing world is a really murky place. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to look at a book deal and say, “Oh okay. This is standard.”

I have a friend whose debut YA advance was 5x more than mine. Another friend was paid 40x less. It was only after a three-hour long conversation that any of us were brave enough to broach the subject of advances, even though we all depend on them to keep the bills paid.

It’s impossible to know if I should commit to using Instagram/Tumblr/Goodreads, etc., or even if these social media platforms translate into book sales! Do blog tours actually help reach new readers? Or would that time be better spent, y’know…writing?

These are all unavoidable questions for everyone within the industry and the fact that NOBODY appears to have the answers makes it even harder to reach any satisfying kind of conclusion. In the wake of all that uncertainty, we all seem to scrutinize each other’s Facebook feeds to see if we’ve been left in the dust.

This is where the real professional jealousy kicks in.

So how do we fight it?

I think Brigid’s advice is spot on. Step away from the laptop. Stop comparing yourself to others. Do not check out someone’s Wikipedia page to determine if they were younger than you when they got their first book published. Guess what? It’s not a competition!

But let’s say that isn’t working for you. Let’s say you’re feeling jealous and petty and irrational, oh, and annoyed because even though you know you’re being irrational you can’t seem to logic your way out of the situation.

Maybe…give yourself a little room to be bad?

Not terrible. It’s not like you’re going to say and/or do anything mean. Are we clear? That’s not going to happen, because you are not a bully.

But sometimes it feels really good to read terrible reviews of famous books. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with a book of quotations called, Writers on Writing. My favorite section was the one where all these iconic authors trash-talked each other. There was something oddly liberating about watching them trip over the pedestal my English teachers had reserved for them. The Germans have a word for this: Schadenfreude. It means, “happiness at the misfortune of others.” I like to look at it a slightly different way though…

Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you’re not the only flawed person around.

So that’s my Marni Advice for the week!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give! (Mid-list Edition)

Hey everyone,

Wow! So people seem to really love the writing advice that I posted a few days ago. I want to give an extra big THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me. There has been more than a little twirling here at Casa de Marni.

And then I realized something very important…

ALL of my advice was geared for aspiring authors. It’s the stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I wouldn’t have shared this post if I didn’t think it was still applicable, but…each level of publishing has its own unique challenges. And I want to take a crack at some of the pressing issues that my author friends are dealing with right now.

So here’s The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give… (The Mid-list Edition.)

1. Accept that most days your books will feel pretty irrelevant.

If someone (*cough* the nice neighborhood barista *cough*) says, “Uh…yeah! I think I’ve heard of your book!” there’s a small part of your brain that begins to shriek…

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But it’s okay! Let’s face it, flying under the radar might even be for the best. If they had read your book they might expect you to, y’know…speak in complete sentences.

And before I have coffee, this is my idea of witty banter…

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It’s not pretty, friends. It’s just not.

2. You will never master ALL the social media tools.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. YouTube. Goodreads. Pinterest. Amazon Author Central. Book trailers. Giveaways. Blogging.

Just listing them probably makes you feel guilty.

Especially since you’re supposed to keep up on popular culture, too. Jennifer Lawrence gets a haircut? You’ve seen it. Mindy Kaling gives an interview? You’ve read it.

You spend an eternity trying to prove yourself as a sparkling conversationist in 140 characters or less…only to make an enormous grammatical gaffe. Then you rush to delete the tweet, except someone has already “favorited” it.

So…you debate sending out a repeat tweet that fixes the mistake or pretending to be charmingly blasé about the whole thing.

Oh that? HAHAHAHA…I was distracted by pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then you post the pics because obviously he will fix everything for you.

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The crazy part is that ALL of this is supposed to look effortless. You’re supposed to have .gifs for any occasion, but it shouldn’t take time. Obviously, this is the reason you’re a mid-lister. If only you spent this much energy on your writing you would be a New York Times Bestseller!

At least, that’s what the majority of your family members will tell you.

Except here’s the annoying truth: Social media expectations will never disappear, especially in an age when author outreach is generally considered the most powerful form of promotion. What’s worse, your image is one of the few things in this industry that you can pretend to control. Book deals, marketing strategies, movie options…you have no say in these things.

Heck, even the next book deal is out of your hands!

So you have to find a way to balance social media duties with writing deadlines and, hopefully, a personal life.

If you figure out how to do this, please let me know. I tend to update madly for a few days and then become so overwhelmed that I start binge-watching TV shows on Hulu.

3. Don’t buy into your own image.

You aren’t the person you portray on social media. There are certain things you should never make public because nerd rage is a very real thing.

The fastest way to activate it is to say that you don’t get what’s so special about Firefly.

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Sometimes your sense of public and private will become blurry. Case in point: I was once told that I didn’t sound as awkward in my blog posts as I claimed to be in real life.

That took me aback for a second. And then I realized…yeah, you’re right! Because I don’t always want to publicize my screw-ups and mistakes. In fact, sometimes I get downright uncomfortable posting about my life. There was one night during my semester abroad in Australia when I experienced something incredible, mystical, borderline spiritual, and I instantly thought, “This would make a great blog post!” I promised myself right then and there that I wouldn’t treat my life as blog post fodder.

I’ve broken that pledge more times than I would like to admit.

So I’m going to repeat this point–for myself, mostly–your life is NOT defined by your online presence.

4. Your friends will not always want to pimp your book stuff.

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You don’t want to retweet everything they do either, right? So don’t start blog posts with the expectation that every one of your witty, clever, effortlessly media-savvy friends will reblog, repost, or regurgitate the advice you thought sounded smart when you wrote it at 2am.

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This being the notable exception. Right guys?!

5. Accept that there WILL be times when you come across as desperate.

At some point, you will offer to mention your friend’s book in the comment section of a vlogbrothers YouTube video…if they’ll do the same for you. Or maybe you’ll create Wikipedia pages for each other!

All the while you’ll pretend that it doesn’t look like this…

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Same goes for Amazon/Goodreads/Audible reviews. We’ve all been there. It’s inevitable. Someday you will see strangers working on library computers and you’ll be tempted to ask them to give your work five stars.

You won’t bother them, of course. But mostly because the library is your second home and you don’t want the very nice librarians to physically escort you out.

6. You will get really, REALLY tired of hearing about John Green.

Actually, Laurie Halse Anderson did a brilliant job addressing this here! SPOILER ALERT: Her frustration isn’t with John Green. You should read it. Frankly, you should read everything she says because she’s a unicorn.

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I promised to stop calling her that though, so let’s keep it between us.

I’m sure John Green is totally fantastic. I just wish that it were possible to have a discussion on YA fiction without spending a solid five minutes on him. It’s not though. Partly because people like me feel the need to discuss his influence here.

*Shakes fist at self*

7. You’ll be tempted to become controversial.

I think one of the hardest parts about being a mid-lister is that you can catch glimpses at bestsellerdom and you think, “Man, if I networked to my highest potential, that could be me!” Then you realize that if you spent that much time voicing your opinions, inevitably something incredibly stupid will slip out. Being controversial suddenly sounds like a silver bullet.

If I mention Author X loudly enough, it will get me attention!

This is how good people become trolls.

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(And yes, I am fully aware that including #6 might make me a hypocrite. Just because I’m giving this advice doesn’t mean I always know how to take it. Should I have skipped #6 entirely? At what point does discussing a controversial issue become link-bait or trolling? I honestly don’t know. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!)

8. Bullying is very real. And it sucks.

The writing community is an incredible place that includes the warmest, smartest, most fiercely loyal people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. And I’d like to point out that I’m not just talking about authors here. Editors, agents, reviewers, bloggers, librarians, conference coordinators…the passion, dedication, and heart that I’ve seen from all of these people, it’s incredible.

But there is still plenty of behind-the-scenes bullying that takes place every day.

Genre-bashing is nothing new, but somehow when it comes from inside the community it feels a billion times worse. Sometimes professional jealousy gets the best of people. It’s hard not to see it as a competition. As I mentioned in my other post, we’ve pretty much been trained to believe that there are a limited number of spaces available and that for us to reach our full potential, we’ll have to beat out somebody else. Publishing doesn’t actually work that way though. Your friend’s glorious, oh-my-freaking-god, seven figure book deal doesn’t have anything to do with the manuscript you’ve got on submission. The best course of action (which is excruciatingly hard sometimes!) is to keep your eyes on your own page.

9. You will survive bad reviews.

That said, I’ll never forget seeing my debut novel described as, “The devil’s way of poisoning young minds.” What confused me most was receiving 3/5 stars from that same reviewer!

To this day, I’m baffled.

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Then again, I know someone who received a 3/10 from a reader who said that a perfect score was The Holy Bible. I’m not sure how that compares to, y’know…a romance novel. All that begetting could be a little steamy, I suppose.

The surest way to maintain your sanity is to laugh your way through it. Or maybe that’s just my technique. Here’s a solid pro tip though: NEVER confront the reviewer.

Even when it hurts. Even when you have to call up your friend to ask if they secretly think your book sucks too. Even when you think that there’s been a slight misunderstanding that could totally be cleared up with a tweet…

If someone shares a negative review to you, either say nothing or thank them for taking the time to read your work. Then step away from the laptop.

Here’s what you do next: Remind yourself that book bloggers are made of awesome. Reviewers are people who care so passionate about books that they can’t wait to tell the whole world about the one they just read! That’s amazing!

There shouldn’t be conflict between authors and reviewers. We should be holding hands while cartoon birds flit above us and daffodils burst into full bloom. We should be so sickeningly cute that everyone outside the writing community is disgusted by our unwavering adoration of each other.

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I’m going to hazard a guess as to why that’s not actually the case.

Just because I love reviewers doesn’t mean I can read their work.

In fact, I can’t.

I’ve learned that I don’t trust myself with reviews, even glowingly awesome ones. They make me feel great for a few seconds, and then suddenly the project in front of me looks extra crappy. And yeah, I’ve been known to obsess over a particularly bad review for a few days. The way I see it, no matter how many stars I’m given, it interferes with my productivity.

I really wish I could read reviews without messing up my head. I don’t blame that on the bloggers. I also don’t blame my inability to listen to the audiobook version of my novels on the narrators. They are awesome. I am the one who panics over hearing my words said aloud.

And you know what? THAT’S OKAY.

I am a firm believer in doing what you have to do to protect your mental health. If a visit to Goodreads could activate some kind of emotional time-bomb inside you, don’t go there.

If you can read a review and think, “Oh wow! That’s such an interesting point. I’m going to make sure that I avoid that mistake in my next book!”…well, that’s awesome. Then it’s a real opportunity for growth and improvement.

My recommendation is to get a review/rejection buddy who will shower you with .gifs to get you through the hard times. And to know that avoiding reviews doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you need to toughen up. It means that you are taking your mental health seriously.

In this profession that’s an incredibly wise thing to do.

10. Please remember that you’re awesome.

It’s shockingly easy to forget that once upon a time, this was the dream. Maybe because now it feels like we spend most of our energy simply trying to stay relevant instead of writing. 

But the truth is that you did something awesome. You wrote a book. And against all the odds, you even got it published. That is an accomplishment that nobody can take away from you!

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Even Ron Swanson wants to celebrate with you.

So hang in there, fellow mid-listers!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. If this was useful to you, please let me know! I’m willing to post writing advice here every Monday if that’s something people seem interested in reading. So feel free to leave a comment here…or on my FB author page…or you could send a tweet…basically, unless you want to use Morse Code, I should be able to get your message!

The Best Writing Advice I Don’t Feel Qualified to Give…

Hey everyone,

So…it’s really weird being asked to give writing advice. I instantly want to say this…

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Fun fact: Nearly every writer I know (myself included) deals with imposter syndrome. Sadly, that does not mean we buy ridiculous outfits from thrift shops and pretend to be the reigning monarch of Khazibekustanzia. It means that we stare at the laptop screen and wait to read an email that says…

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Most writers spend most of their time thinking that they mostly suck at writing.

We tend to believe that everyone else has it figured out and that at some point (if we can just crack the NYT bestseller list!) then we’ll also feel like extra special unicorns. Except it doesn’t actually work that way. We just go right on doubting ourselves.

So why am I sharing this? It’s not, y’know…inspirational.

Except…it kind of is.

Hear me out, okay?

See, young aspiring authors tend to tell me that they’re scared to write a novel because they don’t think it will be all that great. It might even suck. Then they would have to admit that maybe they aren’t cut out for a career in publishing and…

Every. Published. Author. Feels. This. Way.

I’m not kidding.

But if we hadn’t forced ourselves to sit down and write–even when it sounded stilted and awkward and awful and repetitive and…you get my point–then we’d still be exactly where you are now.

So here is the advice that I in no way feel qualified to give you:

1. Write.

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If you want to write…then do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to tell you that you should. Most people aren’t all that encouraging of a career in the arts. Don’t let that stop you from telling the story that you love.

2. Write for yourself.

Don’t write for a bestseller list. Don’t write a dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle because you think it’s going to be the next big thing. I like to remind my friends that if the writing doesn’t make you crazy, the publishing industry will. Chasing a popular trend will only exacerbate that by a billion.

3. Accept that not everyone will like what you’ve written.

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Rejection is a huge part of this industry. I have some tremendously talented friends who have written heart-breakingly brilliant books…and they’ve been rejected by publishers. It’s not just publishers who will do the rejecting either. Everyone is a critic. This includes family, friends, teachers, and mentors. The trick is to find a select few people who can appreciate your writing style. If someone tries to make you sound like somebody else, ignore everything they tell you. 

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You might not want to say this out-loud though…

4. Try to accept what you have written.

It doesn’t have to be The Greatest Novel In The History of Novels. A dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle doesn’t have to be a metaphor for anything.

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And yeah, it might suck. You might want to bash your head against a keyboard when you so much as think about that stupid book. That’s okay too. This isn’t baseball. An umpire isn’t going to yell, “You’re out!” if you write three less-than-stellar manuscripts. Nobody can bench you from writing except yourself.

5. Edit your work.

Let me be clear: YOU need to edit your work. Don’t just hand it off to a parent/teacher/friend/agent/paid consultant because you’re bored and editing is the worst. Nobody knows your book the way that you do. They can’t. Which is why you need to let your inner critic go to town before you hand it over to anyone.

6. Make friends within the writing community.

Not everyone understands our desire to spend time with people who don’t technically exist. So it’s incredibly liberating when you find someone who doesn’t find it weird that you want to know how to, oh I dunno, get away with muuuurder!

That’s right:

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It’s okay to form this community online. We’re a really nice group of weirdos.

I haven’t so much as high-fived some of my very best friends. What can I say? A bunch of them live on the opposite side of the country, which means getting together for coffee isn’t easy. Typing instead of talking in no way invalidates our friendship. In fact, I highly recommend following your favorite authors on Twitter. Authors tend to post fascinating articles on a whole range of subjects, especially on gender, race, sexuality, and psychology. It’s an easy way to find out more about the writing industry and to engage with people you admire.

7. Please, please protect your mental/emotional well-being.

Mental health should not be taken for granted. Ever. Studies from Sweden have shown that writers have up to a 50% higher chance of suicide than non-writer people. (I learned this from Natalie Whipples’ blog. She wrote an amazing set of writing tips that you should definitely check out here!) I admit, I worry the most about teenage writers for the simple reason that high school creates a false sense of competition. The “best” in the class is the person who hands in assignments to a teacher’s liking. The “best” in the school is most likely to be the person who does well on standardized tests.

These things have absolutely no bearing on the publishing world, yet it is incredibly hard not to cling to them when adults in positions of authority insist that grades/exams/essays will determine your college path, and thereby, your future.

What makes this situation so dangerous? When there is no one specific person you have to please, it’s easy to feel lost. It can also make some people strike out in an attempt to recreate a sense of hierarchy. How can you write a romance if you’ve never had one? What makes your work different from alllll the other dystopian/fantasy/mystery, etc. books out there? Why would anyone want to read that?!?

If someone says stuff like this to you--don’t walk, run to the nearest exit.

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An essential part of protecting your mental health is maintaining a non-toxic writing environment.

8. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself.

Don’t worry about getting an agent when you are halfway through the project. You have much bigger things on your plate, like creating a satisfying ending. I’ve come to realize that my least favorite part of the writing process tends to be the one I’m in. When I’m writing, I daydream about editing. When I’m editing, I fantasize about publishing contracts. When I’m on submission, I imagine book covers and brilliant ad campaigns. When I’m in promotion mode, I realize that it’s been forever since I wrote more than a blog post and what if I suck at it now?!

One good thing I can say for this writing cycle is that it keeps me motivated. It also helps that I’m only thinking one step ahead. If you haven’t finished writing, don’t start researching agents. You might find someone you think would be a great fit, only to become frustrated with the two-thirds of a novel that still requires an ending, not to mention a boatload of editing.

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9. Remember that you’re doing something awesome!

You are creating something entirely from your own mind. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that.

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Heck yeah, you can make things levitate!

In fact, you can even make this happen:

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So is the stress, frustration, panic, heart-breaking rejection and general emotional turmoil worth it?

Um…in a word?

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Seriously, guys.

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER is here!

Hey everyone!

I debated playing an April Fool’s prank, but…the truth is so much more exciting! I just received the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER!

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Okay, I admit it. I probably reacted more like this…

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It just looks so beautiful! The wonderful people at KTeen really knocked it out of the park with the cover and…why don’t I just show you what I mean?

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*FLAILS ARMS* *HAPPY DANCES* *BLASTS CONFETTI*

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I love it so much I’m actually tearing up right now. I think it just hit me that this is goodbye to all my Smith High School friends. I feel so blessed that KTeen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my faithful companions. I’m going to miss each and every one of them.

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I’m never going to let you go. Never. NEVER!!!!!

This book is a love letter. Not just for my characters, but for all my fans. Thank you!

Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for handing them to your friends. Thank you for geeking out with me. Thank you for your letters/emails/tweets of encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.

I am so ridiculously lucky to have your support. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

Let me put it this way…

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Also…

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And…

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AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER will be released on June 24th! You can preorder it here or you can try to win an Advanced Reader Copy in one of the giveaways that I’ll soon be running. OR you could do both!

Either way…

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. I will be sharing more photos and fun times on my Facebook author page! You should totally check it out!

Overloaded with Awesome!

Hey everyone!

I woke up this morning with an incredibly handsome man in my bed.

Okay, yes, I left my door ajar and my housemate’s cat, Hamlet, seized the opportunity for a snuggle. I looked from him to my bedspread and when I didn’t find cat vomit on it I knew that today really was going to be an absolutely awesome day!

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“I’d NEVER puke on your bed, Marni. Not accidentally, at least….”

In fact, I’ve been having a really great week!

I spoke on a panel at the Lewis & Clark Gender Symposium!

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The topic: Frenzied Fangirling: Gender, Literature, and the Young Adult Novel. 

My Partners-in-crime: Lisa Burstein, Lauren Furnish, and Diana Weiner Rosengard.

The outcome: An afternoon of awesome!

Then I disappeared into my writing cave, emerging only for (drumroll, please)…adventure!

Basically,  I spent a whole day with my friend chasing waterfalls.

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This is the view from Crown Point, Oregon. Our first stop on the journey!

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Horsetail falls!

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So. Freaking. Beautiful.

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This is…I don’t even know. There were so many gorgeous waterfalls! It stole my breath away.

Speaking of theft…it turns out my great-grandfather was a total con man! My aunt is diving into our genealogy and has been regaling me with tales of his less-than-legal dealings. I guess he was kicked out of Mexico for pretending to be royalty.

I like to think this is where I get my love of the absurd.

BUT THE BIGGEST NEWS IS…

I have a new literary agent! I’m now working with Shannon Hassan at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and I couldn’t be more excited! She’s absolutely wonderful.

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^—This is Shannon. You can read more about her by going here!

Speaking of Shannon, I just emailed her my new book! I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but I can tell you that this is the first time I’ve finished a project and immediately wanted to spend more time in that character’s head.

So I think that’s a very good sign!

And on that note, I’m going to herd the dust bunnies in my room.

*twirls happily with broom*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (RWA, Please Fix This!)

Hey everyone,

So yesterday I received the following email from the Romance Writers of America:

Dear Marni Bates,

Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed.

Awards are important. And I’ve spent the past hour staring at my screen trying to figure out how to discuss them without coming across as narcissistic. Here’s a sad truth: It requires bravery for a female author to say that she believes her work to be worthy of consideration. It’s a whole new level of scary. It’s the kind of statement that you instantly want to take back before somebody says, “You aren’t a real writer! Your stories are light fluffy things of absolutely no consequence!” because that would make you want to crawl up into a very tight ball in the back of your closet.

Which is why I still feel obligated to preface this post with something self-depreciating.

Not that I expected to be nominated…

Not that I had a shot at reaching the finals…

I’m mostly disappointed that so many of my peers won’t get the recognition they deserve…

And yes, I absolutely believe that gender plays a large role in this. If you want to read an amazing article on what it’s like to be a female YA author, I highly recommend this piece by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s spot on.

Here’s a small excerpt from her article:

Common Responses To Female Authors Promoting Themselves I Have Seen, Over and Over Again.

“Why do you think you are so great? You are not so great.” (By promoting yourself/talking about yourself or your work, you indicate that you do think you, and/or your work, has some value, and there is so much pushback, conscious and unconscious, to that.)

“Don’t reblog fan graphics/talk about your characters/talk about your MALE characters (what do you think you are, some sort of harlot?)/be so smug about your books as if you think they might be any good. It makes it seem like you think you’re so great!”

“Do you expect PRAISE?” (I don’t! I never do. Most ladies I know don’t, being accustomed to expecting constant negativity. But it would be nice if people didn’t talk about praise as if it is some incredible, celestial prize that a women should never even dare to dream of getting, and the very idea of them getting it is to be scorned.)

“She’s writing romance and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing YA and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing literature and men write it better and she sucks./She’s writing about a girl and girls are annoying/shallow/not literature.”

So I repeat: Awards are important. Why? It’s a source of validation. And for a whole bunch of us, it means that we will feel valued instead of dismissed. Especially if you write books that end with a happily ever after.
Now I will always love the Romance Writers of America. I’ve met so many unbelievably talented people through that organization. My life is a hundred thousand times more awesome because of the friendships that have formed, too!
But they have made a huge mistake.
The Young Adult community within the RWA first began to feel alienated last year when the organization decided that all books in that category must “focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents.”
Here’s the problem: YA is all about coming of age. It’s about figuring out your own identity at a time in life where everyone has an opinion about your future. And yes, YA protagonists often navigate complicated romantic relationships, but the happily ever after is usually built on the character’s ability to know what they believe in. Young Adult fiction can also mean just about anything. Historical. Suspense. Horror. Sci-fi. Contemporary. Humor. Drama. There are YA books that include all of those elements…and have a romance too!
So here is the position that most YA writers found themselves in. Do I really want to spend fifty bucks when I’m pretty sure my book is going to be instantly disqualified? Do I want to feel guilty about focusing more on the growth of a primary character instead of an overarching romance?
And for a bunch of people the answer to that was a resounding, “Oh, hell no!” Some of my friends are going to leave the organization because they feel so frustrated/alienated by these policy changes.
Now that whole category has been eliminated.
I know you might be sick of hearing this, but…AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT!
This community is important! This is our refuge when the rest of the world tells us that we are girly and that we suck. So I hope the RWA will remove the problematic language and consider opening the category to late submissions.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
~Marni

Marni’s Pirates & Plagiarists Playlist

Hey everyone,

So a whole bunch of my writer friends are dealing with online piracy right now.

Actually, that’s misleading. ALL of my author friends are dealing with it. All of the time.

And yes, I’m reporting stolen copies of my books too.

I could rant about how shitty it is to have your hard work stolen. And I could point out that authors do not rake in the kind of money you might imagine that we do. Seriously. If we are lucky enough to get an advance on royalties from our publisher (this is by no means a given!) that money is instantly earmarked for paying the bills. Many authors won’t see a single penny of royalty money even a year after the release date.

Which means that if you want an author to keep writing you should seriously consider, y’know…buying their books.

Just a thought.

But I’m going to try to let my Pirates & Plagiarists Playlist do the speaking for me.

*These songs include swearing. So if that offends you, I’d suggest skipping them!

1. *Sweet As Whole ~ Sara Bareilles

Let’s be real. That’s what we’re thinking.

2. *I Hate Everyone ~ Go Set Go

Self-explanatory.

3. Don’t Ask Me ~ OK Go

Especially if you are directly confronting someone who has stolen your work. I tend to avoid doing that. I just…don’t even want to go near it.

4. My Rights Versus Yours ~ The New Pornographers.

Yep. I’m getting punny.

5. *Sh*t Song ~ Kate Nash

I listen to this on repeat when I’m really mad.

6. Mean ~ Taylor Swift

The title says it all.

7. Brave ~ Sara Bareilles

Let the words fall out…

8. Do My Thing ~ Estelle

*dances happily*

9. Strip Me ~ Natasha Bedingfield

I love this song. I think it’s a great reminder that no pirate or plagiarist can ever steal our voice. They can only temporarily hijack our words.

And finally…

10. Keep Your Head Up ~ Andy Grammer

At the end of the day, this is still the best job in the whole freaking world. So we’ve got that going for us!

Feel free to suggest other songs! I’m always interested in listening to new music!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni